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Why Kerala CM Antony resigned

George Iype in Kochi | August 29, 2004 22:03 IST

More than three years after leading the Congress to a massive victory in the assembly polls in Kerala, Chief Minister A K Antony bowed out of office on Sunday because of bitter infighting within the party and the poor performance of the United Democratic Front government.

More than these reasons, the influential church leaders had nearly joined hands with the Left parties in the past few months to oppose tooth and nail the education policies of the Antony government.

Antony's bitter rival K Karunakaran had been seeking his head for over a year now. The UDF ruling partners, that includes the powerful Muslim League, had also been attacking Antony as 'a spineless chief minister'.

Thus, the victorious Antony, who took over the reigns of Kerala in May 2001, had become a feeble and ineffective chief minister of late.

Soon after he came to power, he announced that his government would follow the other southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and bring investment worth Rs 50,000 crore to the state.

Towards this end, the Antony government organized a Global Investor Meet two years ago. But soon Antony found himself fighting the petty politics of the Congress, led by the Karunakaran group.

Everyone has forgotten the target that Antony set in the Global Investor Meet. It barely brought in Rs 2000 crore investment.

The Congress-led UDF government's poor rule has been taking the Left parties to the streets lately for everything and anything.

Antony is also yet to recover from the rude shock of the Congress being wiped out from the state in the April-May general elections, while the party did wonderfully well in other parts of the country.

Congress leaders disclosed that Antony had, in fact, put in his papers to party president Sonia Gandhi soon after the severe drubbing the state party unit received in the parliamentary elections. But Gandhi, who still regards Antony as one of the trusted and honest Congress leaders, told him to stick on.

Antony's decision to resign on Sunday was not abrupt; it just came on a day when Gandhi came for the first time to the state after winning the Lok Sabha polls.

Many believe Antony has come cleaner by resigning. Interestingly, his bitter rival Karunakaran, who harbours chief ministerial ambitions, has nothing to cheer about. His chances of taking over the mantle are almost ruled out, as he has badly fallen out with the Congress high command.

The choice of the next chief minister, thus, will be left to Antony himself. His close aides said that Antony has put forward the names of senior Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Vakom Purushothaman as candidates. The party high command is expected to pick the next chief minister on Monday.

The 'loser' Antony may not concede much now, as it is almost certain the Congress high command will offer him a Cabinet berth in the Manmohan Singh ministry.

So the Kerala political drama could lead to the first expansion of the Manmohan government at the Centre.

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